VIDEO: Nevada's Minden pursues fire-fighter role for BAe 146

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British Aerospace's 146 is nearing new life as an aerial fire-fighter following the sale of an aircraft to US tanker converter and operator Minden Air.

Disclosing the deal during a media briefing in London, BAE Regional Aircraft said Nevada-based Minden Air took delivery of the jet - an ex-Jazz example, serial number E2111 - in early January.

Minden Air is aiming to secure a supplemental type certificate for the conversion which it has designed itself. It will convert the aircraft this year and plans it to be operational for the 2010 fire season.

BAE's fire-fighting tanker programme emerged about five years ago through a co-operation with Minden Air, lessor Tronos and J2 Engineering. In September 2004 a trial used a 146-100, fitted with ballast and instruments, to fly nine sorties from Minden's base to explore its ability to follow typical flight profiles for fire-fighting.

But the intention to convert a 146-200 - an ex-United Express aircraft, serial E2033 - did not materialise, says BAE, because it was "not possible" to reach a commercial agreement that satisfied all parties, and the co-operation ended.

BAE says aircraft E2033 remains hangared at Minden, and the manufacturer believes Tronos is continuing to pursue its own air tanker conversion. Minden Air has opted to develop its own separate supplemental type certificate, adds the company, and the acquisition of E2111 is part of this effort.

"The trials [in 2004] showed that the aircraft type was capable of flying typical mission profiles," says BAE, adding that it believes the jet is a "very suitable platform" for such work.

"We are interested in the potential of the BAe 146 for this highly-specialised market and believe it has the right blend of younger aircraft from its portfolio, with the optimum number of cycles, to ensure that any converted aircraft will be capable of operating for the long term."